Monday, May 19, 2014

Flash Fiction

Ta da! I finally finished my flash fiction entry! Extremely late, I know. I’m very sorry for that, everyone. But, for what it’s worth, here it is. Thanks to Rcubed for my prompt! My entry topped out at 837 words, including the prompt.

I was the only one not crying at the funeral. The only one not caring, if you ask the family gossips. But they’d only to be talking about themselves. You see, they might have been bawling their eyes out while I stood stiffly at the side of his grave, but they weren’t showing real grief.

I don’t cry much, but, if ever I had the occasion to shed tears, Daddy’s funeral would have been it. His favorite verse had been read; the preacher was saying his final words; but I refused to blend in with my hypocritical family. So I didn’t cry.

My heart broke anyway.

I was the only one not cheering at my college graduation. The only one too stuck up to join in, if you ask my classmates. But they’d be wrong. They cheered because they were happy. I felt no joy, only a vague sense of ending. So I stood as solemnly as I had at the gravesite eight years before, surrounded by people who didn’t understand.

People never understand.

I’ve gone on to have success as a marketing strategist for years. But two decades of loneliness and distancing myself from everyone have affected me. I know they have.

What’s the point?

I’m sitting in another empty hotel room, “celebrating” another brilliant success for the company. I’ve done them a great service today, or so says my boss. Honestly, though, I just feel tired. My head hurts. They always shower me with accolades after an assignment like this, as if I need their support in order to keep doing it. It’s not as hard as everyone seems to think, though, travelling every few weeks. They act like I’m being uprooted, but that would require that I’ve actually put down some roots.

The phone rings. Room service is late, so maybe it’s the hotel, calling with an explanation. Then again, it’s probably just my boss’ secretary, adding something she forgot in our discussion earlier today.

“Hello?”

“Is this Aubrey?”

“Yes. How can I help you?” My pulse picks up at the unfamiliar voice.

“This is going to sound strange, but my name is Danielle. I’m across the hall from you, and I know you’re miserable.”

I jerk away from the phone, eyes widening. Shivers race down my arms. With a deep breath, I replace the device against my ear. “I don’t know anyone named Danielle.”

“No, we’ve never met.” Her voice is calm. It would be soothing if my gaze wasn’t cutting frantically back and forth. I can’t seem to slow my breathing.

“Aubrey?” Her voice grips my attention again. “I know you’re still that angry young woman standing at her father’s gravesite.”

The phone slips from my fingers. My throat closes up and stops the flow of air. Staring at the phone bouncing lazily at the end of its looped cord, I fight the sob welling within me. How does this woman know about Daddy’s death?

When I grit my teeth into a stubborn line, I pick the phone back up. My voice shakes just slightly. “Who are you?”

“A messenger, Aubrey. I’m just a messenger who wants the best for you.”

My chest feels tight. “A messenger for whom?”

“God.”

I freeze. “God told you to call me?”

I’m talking to a crazy person.

“Yes. Don’t run from Him. You don’t have to be that lost little girl.”

Clenching my jaw, I pull the phone away.

“Don’t hang up!”

“What?” I bite the word out.

Her voice softens. “Look in the drawer.”

Without another word to her, I hang up. Half-expecting her to call back, I glare at the receiver. But nothing happens. Sighing, I lean back on my hands. Good riddance. My gaze flits to the drawer.

Just ignore her.

I pull it open and snort. A Bible. Of course. What was I expecting? I haven’t opened a Bible since I read the verse at Daddy’s service. Sighing, I thumb through the pages. They manage to look unthreatening. Why have they scared me for all these years? A glimpse of bright blue catches my gaze. Flipping back to it, I find a colored index card with some words written across it with no heed for the lines: Why did I let my anger and fear trap me for all those years?

A tremor floats through my stomach.

You’re still that angry young woman…

Gasping, I grip the book more tightly. What is this sensation ripping through me? My shaking fingers nudge the note out of the way and my eyes widen. The card marks Daddy’s favorite verse, Joshua 1:5. I focus on the last phrase: I will never leave you nor forsake you.

When did I start crying? Tears erupt from inside me and plop onto the thin pages of the Bible. Tears that I couldn’t shed years ago? Perhaps. But suddenly I realize something that’s eluded me my whole life.

I may have been the only one not crying, but I was never the only one grieving at the funeral.

10 comments:

  1. Oh my gargoyles, Bluebelle, you did an excellent job with this! You shaped my prompt in a way that I never expected :-) Good job!

    I think maybe the only thing that I felt was a little bit "off" was the transitions from the funeral to the graduation to the hotel room. I had to do a double take for half a second before realizing that it was a time jump.

    Other than that, awesome job!

    ~Rcubed~

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm glad you liked it! And "oh my gargoyles" made me laugh. :D

      Good point! I'll have to remember that.

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  2. Very nice! I love how you brought the sentence back in at the end. Genius!

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    1. Thank you! I really appreciate that, Katie!

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  3. Nice, Belle! I like how you didn't let the first sentence shape the whole immediate context of the story, but pulled it out in time and setting from the funeral point.
    I also really enjoyed the suspenseful, almost creepy element of the anonymous phone call. Maybe it's just me, but hotel rooms are already fraught with spookiness...so a person who knows all about me on the other end of a phone is the last straw!
    I felt like there would be more emotional impact near the end, if we knew a little bit more about Aubrey. You've outlined her life...but it wasn't clear to me near the beginning what actually made her so withdrawn. I assume it is the death of her father...but is it also related to her relationship before his death? I realize you are working with a word limit, but I think this is worth expanding if you are so inclined. :)
    Good job on the italicized thoughts - they were frequent enough to have some continuity, but not so much that they got annoying! :)
    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks so much for you input, Lippy! When I first sat down to write this story a couple of weeks ago, I was letting that first sentence shape it. And, while the concept did intrigue me, it wasn't sustaining a story arc.

      *laughs* I can agree with you on hotel rooms, although they've always been pretty exciting for me. But you're right: a phone call like that would be pretty crazy!

      Maybe that's what was bothering me about the whole thing; I haven't been completely satisfied with how it turned out. Her attitude at the beginning is because of her father's death, but it's also because she's having to suffer from relatives with an agenda. In my first attempt, that came to a forefront more. Was it just confusing here? Any suggestions on how I could make it more impactful?

      I'm glad the italics worked! I've heard differing opinions on their use in stories, but I'm fond of them. So, I'm glad I didn't overuse them! Thanks for reading!

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  4. I'm thinking that if you spent more time talking about the funeral, layering some details...that it might bring the deeper issues to the surface. Of course, that is mostly easier said than done! :)

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    1. That's a good idea! I'll definitely take that under consideration. Maybe, if I did that, I could also add a couple more short "moments in time" to the progression. Kind of like you did in yours, now that I think about it. :) Thanks for your help!

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  5. This is very good! GREAT opening! I love flash fiction ^_^

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    1. Thank you, Laura! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Next time we do something like this, you'll have to join in! :)

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